A Thicker Waist May
Lead to a Thinner Brain
A new reason to avoid gaining weight in midlife
by Kai Hill
Illustration by Neil Webb
More bad news for big eaters: Having a larger waistline and a high body mass index (BMI) in your 60s may speed brain aging by at least a decade, according to a new study published by Miller School of Medicine researchers in collaboration with investigators from Columbia University.
The study involved 1,289 people, two thirds of whom were Hispanic, with an average age of 64. Participants’ BMI and waist circumference were measured at the beginning of the study. Six years later, participants had MRI brain scans to measure the thickness of the cortex area, overall brain volume and other factors.
“People with bigger waists and higher BMI were more likely to have thinning in the cortex area, which implies that obesity is associated with reduced brain gray matter,” said Tatjana Rundek, M.D., Ph.D., scientific director of the Miller School’s Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Research Institute. “The associations were especially strong in those younger than 65. These results are exciting because they raise the possibility that by losing weight, people may be able to stave off brain aging and potentially the accompanying memory and thinking problems.”